Nordic Ski Team Head Coach Peter Larsen shares about the ongoing 2021 season:
How is the makeup of the varsity team different from last year?: On the girls’ side we graduated a number of our varsity last year- this year we have a number of young girls coming up and working really hard to fill those spots. On the boys’ side, we only lost two of the varsity, one of which was Cooper Lennox, now at Northern Michigan for skiing. The boys are young this year as well with just two seniors on the varsity and a number of ninth graders skiing really well. With such young teams many might consider us a building program, but we’ve skied really well, girls winning both meets so far and the boys taking one win and narrowly getting edged by Coon Rapids in the other meet.
What are the team’s goals and priorities for the season?: As a coaching staff we’ve made it clear that COVID mitigation is our first priority for the season, our second priority is certainly having fun while getting fit and fast. Our team is split into three pods, each with their own priorities based on the technique and fitness level of the skiers in that group. Some emphasize technique more while others emphasize the fitness and racing aspect.
What pandemic-related changes are most challenging, and how are the athletes adapting to those changes?: Certainly the MSHSL rule that masks had to be worn outside. In the cold weather it doesn’t take very long to get soggy, sopping wet and if it’s cold enough, freeze solid. Our skiers have adapted well though and we’ve learned which types of masks are best for keeping moisture off and not freezing up. The rules have since relaxed, now, during racing and hard workouts when distance of 6 feet or greater can be maintained they are not required to wear masks. The other tough change is not having the Nordic Center or school as a place to warm-up because of social distance rules. All the athletes have learned to wear warm clothes because all team meetings are outside to help us keep potential virus spread down and contract tracing easy.
What do you hope these young athletes will take away from their sports experience this season?: I hope that our athletes learn to deal with adversity and tough situations and still be able to participate in a sport that they enjoy. I hope they take away that if you are creative and willing you can still have a great experience through adverse circumstances.
What is the best way for fans to support the team this year?: Many Mustang skiers will be racing the Vasaloppet and Moraloppet races the next two weekends- look for them in their blue and black race suits and give them a big cheer.